American Evangelicalism Essay
addresses 20th-century ideologies and how Christianity interacted with them in terms of the activities of evangelicals and the ecumenical movement. APA style
The Activities of Evangelicals and the Ecumenical Movement and the 20thCentury Ideologies
Evangelicalism also known as evangelical Protestantism or evangelical Christianity, is a global, multidenominational organization within Protestant Christianity which advocates the belief that the central focus of the Gospel is the dogma of salvation by grace through belief in the atonement power of Jesus Christ’s (Johnson & Phil, 2009). Evangelicals subscribe to the supremacy of the conversion or “born again” experience in becoming saved, the authority of the Bible as God’s message of his will to humanity, and in preaching and teaching the good news otherwise known as the Gospel. The movement has been in existence in the Anglosphere since the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries (Mislin, 2015). This assignment addresses 20th-century ideologies and how Christianity interacted with them in terms of the activities of evangelicals and the ecumenical movement.
Major ideologies of the 20th Century included universality of Christian faith starting in the early 1900s. This was the foundation of ecumenism. Ecumenism, movement is a tendency toward global Christian unity and cooperation. It was a lobby started to restore the apostolic mission of the early church for unity in diversity, and it provokes the difficulties, frustrations, and ironies of the modern multicultural society. Ecumenism, in particular, held the ideologies of uniting all world Christians in their diversities. In other words, ecumenism never concentrated on the biblical standards and definition of the Christian faith but rather that people should be accepted in their way of life without imposing the biblical standards on them. This is what they called liberal theology. The Evangelical however emphasized on biblical principles of Christian life and thus emphasized correction of the perverse generation (Carroll, 2012). The Fundamentalist had to them become an embarrassment. The major differences in ideologies thus revolved on biblical standards vs universality in diversity including intellectualism, dialogue, appeasement and non-judgmentalism.
Following the differing ideologies, Harold Ockenga established the term neo-evangelicalism so as to distinguish themselves from the rest of the fundamentalists in 1947. This new name would differentiate them from the former evangelicalism which, apart from the Bible also believed in solving disputes through military movements just like in ecumenism. Neo-Evangelicalism upheld the ideology of positivism and non-militancy approaches that characterized that generation. Some of the fundamental ideologies included intellectualism, dialogue, appeasement and non-judgmentalism (Johnson & Phil, 2009). They further called for an increased application of the gospel to sociological, political, and economic concerns rather than militancy as was provided for by ecumenism. Unlike the Ecumenism ideology of social relevance and acceptance, intellectual respectability and accommodativeness of perverse generation, neo-evangelicalism stood for an ideology which would implement correction where necessary whether such correction would make them less relevant and dominant. Consequently, efforts to correct mistakes of the perverse generation were considered as heretics by the ecumenists (Mislin, 2015).
The Main activity of the ecumenical movement was to promote unity of the global churches in an attempt to reignite the apostolic mission as was dedicated by Jesus Christ. This included the promotion of global cooperation in fulfilling the world mission of the apostolic church. From the late 19th to early 20th C, many American Protestants had become Evangelicals (Mislin, 2015). However, a hostile division emerged between the more liberal-modernist mainline denominations and the evangelicals. The major subjects of contentions included the authority of the Bible. While one side considered the Bible as supreme, the other side held the opinion that the truth of the Bible could be figurative and only contextual and, therefore, could not remain fundamentally binding in different generation and contexts. Additionally, liberal modernists promoted the teaching of evolution in school while the evangelicals held that it was contrary to biblical fundamentals because the philosophy of evolution belittled and eroded the belief in the creative power of God (Carroll, 2012). The differences thus widened.
The interaction between the ideologies and activities of the ecumenism movement and the protestant evangelicals was thus an antagonistic one. Evangelicals maintained the supremacy of the principles of the bible to the Christian life while ecumenisms were entirely focused on unity of the global churches as well as the global politics. The period after the World War II, Evangelicals got even more organized. Subsequently evangelical activities intensified in the United States. The period was marked by what was called “a revival of revivalism.” The Revival evangelism gave birth to the “Youth for Christ.” “Youth for Christ” formed the foundation for Billy Graham’s revivals (Hollinger, 2010). The organization of the Evangelicals gave rise to the National Association of Evangelicals in 1942 as a counterbalance to the mainline Federal Council of Churches, which was another version of ecumenism. At the same time, the Conventional Revival Hour had had established national radio audience. The separation widened even further with the parallel organizations fundamentalist and Evangelicals.
Even with the establishment of the ecumenical movements and the World Council of Churches, the evangelicals remained firm with their doctrines (Hollinger, 2010). Controversially, according to Hollinger (2010), the evangelicals have been on the opposing side on gay marriage, abortion, death penalty, teaching of evolution because the Bible does not authorize such. Interesting while it would be expected that the evangelicals would readily accept the ordination of women for certain roles in the church, they have been very reluctant because the bible does not expressly allow for such ordination (Heineman & Kenneth, 1998). The same position of the evangelicals is still a prevalent characteristic of some Evangelicals in the 21st
In a nut shell, the evangelical rebelled from the conventional fundamentalists because of their different ideologies on doctrines of the bibles as well as their position social issues. Ecumenism sought after plurality, social relevance and inclusivity regardless of whether someone was messing or not. Evangelical on the other hand adhered to the bible as the supreme rule of life and would thus implement correction where it was necessary without fear of favor. Consequently, the evangelical separated from the mainstream Protestantism and mere Christianity and stood for Gods authoritative teaching of the Bible alone.
Johnson, Phil (2009). “The History of Evangelicalism”. Pulpit Magazine. Archived from the original on 2010-06-16.
Mislin, D. (2015). One Nation, Three Faiths: World War I and the Shaping of “Protestant-Catholic-Jewish” America. Church History, 84(4), 828–862.
Hollinger, D. A. (2010). The Realist-Pacifist Summit Meeting of March 1942 and the Political Reorientation of Ecumenical Protestantism in the United States. Church History, 79(3), 654–677.
Carroll, B. E. (2012). Worlds in Space: American Religious Pluralism in Geographic Perspective. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 80(2), 304
Heineman, Kenneth J. (1998). God is a Conservative: Religion, Politics and Morality in Contemporary America. pp. 44–123.